The machete attacks in Greater Masaka region have turned intricate, with fears now emerging that they could have taken the direction reminiscent of how security handled them in 2017.
This is the view held by some sections of the public, an NRM party leader in Masaka and the opposition National Unity Platform (NUP).
What Went Wrong?
It should be remembered that following widespread insecurity that also included machete attacks in Greater Masaka, police resorted to desperate tactics of framing up some individuals.
This tactic came to the fore after it was leaked to the public by a group of goons that fell out with the police after the force failed to fulfill its part of the bargain.
In confessions that bewildered the public, gang members led by one Asiimwe Suleiman aka Kabaya revealed that some police bosses had approached him to mobilise some hard-hearted youths who could bravely claim on camera that they were the ones behind the acts of terror then. These were then coached to implicate some people and they actually zeroed on one Bruce Bukenya a.k.a. BK. Asiimwe said he executed the deal perfectly and then his confessions led to the arrest of BK who was then paraded before the media as the mastermind behind the murders. The parading which attracted rebuke from human rights bodies was done at Katwe Police Station by then Inspector General of Police Kale Kayihura. Asiimwe said that to pull this off, each of the desperate youths was promised Shs25m. This was top of 1000 birds for each of the boys to start poultry projects as well as eventual recruitment into the police force.
Indeed, all went well, but the mercenaries later leaked the plot after the said money was not given to the confessing boys. The boys revealed that they were enraged and forced to come clean after learning that while their money was released, it was shared by top security bosses while the confessors were instead sent to hail and the burden of bailing them out shifted to their poor parents who then sold personal belongings including land and animals to rescue their sons.
Whereas investigations into the current wave of the murders are still ongoing, Masaka district NRM chairman Peter Ssenkungu believes the conduct of the police in the current bijambiya leaves a lot to be desired. While addressing the media earlier this week, Ssenkungu faulted the tactics the police are employing in pursuing the assailants. He even expressed fear that there could actually be collusion between the cops and the machete-wielding assailants. To begin with, Ssenkungu accuses the security detectives of employing an anti-people stance which has seen them arrest and frame locals that go to report any information regarding the murders.
He says this has created mistrust between the locals and the police and thus many locals with useful information are withholding it for fear of being arrested or being branded as being part of the machete thugs. He thus proposed that government creates a neutral information center where locals can freely go and offer information in confidence without fear of negative and punitive repercussions.
Calling for the disbandment of the police force for two years, Ssenkungu also revealed that the enforcement tactics of the police are so much wanting to the extent that locals believe they are only meant to alert the machete goons to flee crime scenes.
“The CID are simply extorting money from the locals but not doing any work. Secondly, these people have a habit of shooting in the air while approaching scenes where they are told there are attacks. We therefore believe such unnecessary shooting is meant to alert the attackers to flee,” he said.
He revealed that the police force is so rotten that even if they hire and train new cops they are soon contaminated by senior weevils. He express shock at the realization that the cops are actually escalating land wrangles in the area (amidst some public opinions that the attacks are deliberate and aimed at facilitating the passing of land reforms in parliament; especially regarding the targeted abolishment of mailo land). He cited a particular scenario in Misaali village where a tycoon paid cops to facilitate the grabbing of land. He also warned that government must also aim at first ascertaining the cause of the murders, imputing that they could be linked to miscalculations and other injustices government could have committed against citizens. He cited an example of arbitrary arrests of youth in Buganda region among other things.
INVESTIGATE THE POLICE
Ssenkungu therefore urged Masaka Regional Police Commander Paul Nkore to investigate his own officers before pointing fingers at civilians over the murders.
Ssenkungu’s view is also shared by the leader of opposition in parliament, Mathias Mpuuga. The LoP who is MP for Nyendo-Mukungwe in Masaka Mukungwe note that government needs to professionally investigate the murders instead of doing things in a manner that creates suspicion on its part. Mpuuga noted that in the recent similar incidents, top security officials were implicated and so the same could be true this time. “Only rare professionalism shall crack what looks like a resurgence of organized crime in which sections of the security apparatus were implicated. We expect professionalism, due process and justice. Any attempt to use shortcuts to resolve a bigger problem may not serve the ends of justice to the victims and the accused,” Mpuuga said.
Mpuuga made the remarks on the background of summons that were sent to two NUP MPs Muhammad Ssegirinya and Allan Ssewanyana requiring them to go and answer queries relating to the Masaka murders.
To Mpuuga however, the summons are far-fetched and seem a desperate attempt by government to wipe out NUP by linking it to rebel/terror activities. It should be noted that Masaka was the biggest voter of NUP presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi who garnered more than 70% of the vote. Already, several political commentators and analysts have opined that linking its MPs to the murders is enough to cast it in bad light and make it hated by the locals who will in turn look at the NRM party as saviours. The same view is also held by Mpuuga who believes government wants to use the current bijambiya attacks to simply settle political scores with NUP and its supporters in Masaka.
Ssegirinya, ssewanyana bash summons
Meanwhile, both MPs Ssegirinya and Ssewanyana have distanced themselves from the criminality in Masaka, moments after receiving summons to answer questions over the same.
In the summons letter dated Friday September 3rd, the Police Director Criminal Investigations Paul Katto Tumuhimbise said the MPs were needed to record statements at Masaka Police Station.
“CID is investigating some murders that took place in Greater Masaka during the months of July and August 2021,” Kato wrote.
“This serves as summons for you to appear at Masaka Police Station on Monday 6th September 2021 at 10:00 hours before D/SSP Moses Taremwa for a statement in respect to the said investigations,” in part read the summons.
But responding to the summons, a distraught Ssegirinya believes they are simply politically motivated
Particularly, he attributes them to his political rival Suleiman Kidandala whom he believes is working with government to get him arrested and jailed and later killed both physically and politically such that his MP seat in Kawempe North can be taken.
“I just came back from the Netherlands only to see these summons linking me to such heartless acts. But I can’t understand myself now because this has hit me really hard. I know nothing about this matter. I value life so much to the extent that I can’t even slaughter a chicken. Actually, I was planning to go and do charity by sending some food to the affected. Now I just imagine what would have happened if I had gone there,” Ssegirinya cried. He urged those pursuing him to take the MP seat but spare his life. Echoing Mpuuga’s stand, he noted that by framing them, the police are shielding the real perpetrators of the murders.
Ssegirinya’s view is shared by Kira Municipality MP Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda. While speaking on the capital gang show last Saturday, Ssemujju noted that summoning the NUP MPs shows that security have failed to investigate the murders. Ssemujju decried that each time security fail in investigations of matters of public concern, they run to politicize such matters so as to get escape routes and scapegoats. And on his part, MP Ssewanyana said; “If this is the stage we are at in the politics. That we practice politics of blackmail and smear then it is unfortunate. Of course I will answer the summons although I don’t know anything about these summons or how they came about. But I’ll go to Masaka with my lawyers and answer to whatever they will put before me.”
The summons have also been chided by NUP Principal Bobi Wine, who believes they are meant to break NUP’s spirit.
Shortly after the summons went through, he tweeted; “Anyone can predict where this is going, and what their grand objective is,” Bobi Wine tweeted. He then took to his Facebook page and posted thus: “Countrywomen and men, As predicted, the Museveni regime has actualised their plan of implicating NUP leaders in the ongoing spate of murders in Greater Masaka. When Chris Baryomunsi said this last week, it looked like a joke. But as we now know, anything is possible in Uganda. As we speak, Hon. Muhammad Segirinya (MP Kawempe North) and Hon. Allan Ssewanyana (MP Makindye West) were summoned to appear before CID tomorrow (Monday) in relation to the ongoing spate of murders. Anyone can predict where this is going, and what their grand objective is. What I can say without contradiction, is that this new attempt will fail, like all those before. Our people just need to be vigilant and remain alert.”
But M7 Blamed ADF!
The summons come after President Museveni revealed that the attacks were being instigated by ADF insurgents. The president made the remarks on August 27, when he also promised to discuss with authorities in Kinshasa to help Uganda combat the terrorists. “The plans and orders for killing our people are coming from the terrorists in Eastern Congo. We are continuing to discuss with HE Felix Tshisekedi (DR Congo president) about eliminating that cancer,” he said. He however also alluded to some politicians who could be fuelling the attacks so as to discredit the government.